Nedo Fiano speaks about his memoir “The courage to live” with his son Andrea Fiano, NY correspondent of Milano Finanza.
«My deportation to the Nazi extermination camps marked my entire life. My all family ended up there with me and they all died. At age 18 I was an orphan and this devastating experience made me a different kind of man: I have been a witness all my life». Nedo Fiano lived in Florence when the racial laws were promulgated. He was arrested by Italians on February 6, 1944 and was brought to the Florentine jail first and then to the internment and transit camp of Fossoli. From there he was deported to Auschwitz on May 16, 1944. He survived and was liberated at Buchenwald.
The Jewish presence in Florence goes back to the 15 century and the generation of Mr. Fiano and his parents were part of a highly diverse and integrated community of about 1500 people.
With the implementation of the so-called racial laws in 1938, Nedo Fiano was expelled from the school and his family, along with all the Jews of Italy, lost their right to participate in the Italian society and became second-class citizens.
At age 13 Mr. Fiano experienced the indifference, prejudice, and cowardice of his class-mates and teachers who terminated all contacts with him. “It would have been very different to hear even only one word from them. But it did not happen. Neither before, not after the war.” He said in an interview.
With the loving and intelligent support of his mother, Nedo Fiano overcame this first trauma and entered the school that the Jewish community had quickly organized. Renowned academics who had lost their jobs were now his teachers and for the next few years the school proved to be one of the best one in Florence.
After the armistice of 1943, however, the Jewish communities of Italy began to be rounded up one after the other and the Fianos went into hiding. In May 1944 Nedo and his family were arrested by the Fascist police and deported to Fossoli first and then to Auschwitz. The young Nedo had learned German from his grandfather who regarded languages as a key to the future. Indeed thanks to that early teaching he became an interpreter and managed to survive, the only one in his family, until the liberation of the camp.
Upon his return to Italy, with the help of extended family and the Jewish community Nedo Fiano slowly reintegrated in the life of the country to become a successful business and family man.
Today Mr. Fiano is active educating young Italians about racism, the racial laws, and the Shoah. As he explained in many interviews, bearing witness of the Fascist persecutions and the Nazi extermination camps was a difficult journey, not only painful on a personal level, but often unwelcome in the schools and the public forum. Thanks to his determination and that of a small group of other survivors, public advocates, and historians, the study of the Shoah is today fully part of public school curricula and the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz is a day of national observance. Many school bring their high-school students to visit the camp and Mr. Fiano has accompanied some of the groups. “The guard, however, should never be lowered and the work must be continued” – explains Mr. Fiano – because it is only by cultivating the knowledge of history that we can hope that the future generations will not accept, sometime gladly as it happened during the racial laws, the persecution of any group of citizens.